Don’t fit anything that can’t be polished

032837700_1220264704Mike Owen emphasises the importance of only fitting the best quality parts and explains the downfalls of working with poor base materials.
If the base material is flawed, it is impossible to produce a quality product or put slightly less politely: you can’t polish a turd.

In aftermarket terms the saying could also go: a poor product is always overpriced. Perhaps making this even more real you can suggest that the ‘polish’ is the fitting carried out by the workshop and that the ‘base-material’ in our case are the parts.

No, there is no reference here to proprietary parts and those with known pedigree, but the reference is to those that are often referred to as ‘budget’. The felony is compounded by its ‘chicken and egg’ nature; what comes first, the supply or the demand?

Price sensitivity

When asked, the garage will talk about the price sensitivity of the market place and such pious words as ‘looking after the customer’s pocket’ (even when not asked to). It is proven that customers want vehicles they can rely on and that their quest is for ‘value’ not ‘price’ and the two are different. It was Warren Buffett, the great American industrialist, turned philanthropist, who made more money than most small countries and then gave it away, who observed “price is what you pay, quality is what you get”.

The garage will often assume the price sensitivity of the situation and then either fail to represent the options properly to the customer and allow them to make an informed choice, or worse, make the choice for them. What the garage doesn’t know is the customer’s situation and will often take the decision based on their own interpretation of worth rather than allowing the customer to view the problem from their own perspective.
I was working in a Nissan dealership when a customer came into reception; the garage had had a series of problems with the customer’s vehicle and the Service Advisor was misreading the situation big-time. The customer, an eminent Harley Street surgeon, listened to the advisor digging a hole for himself and how they were actually saving the customer money when the customer erupted, making the statement ‘**** it, just give me a new one!’ The advisor thought he meant a new part, the customer meant a new car. The moral is that garages should present the options, not the price only.

The parts problem spills on into the factor who, in order to maintain this perceived price-sensitive business, scours the market for ever cheaper materials to feed the garages insatiable appetite for price driven parts – both now exposing themselves to the dangers of the ‘consumer laws’. Some will blame the internet. However, this will only give competitive information; the garages inability to organise and schedule work will, in most cases, lead them towards a factor who can feed their ‘immediate’ needs.

There are four scenarios regarding repair quality; only one is proven to work. These are: Poor parts and poor labour equates to a bad job: poor parts and good labour gives slightly better odds of a satisfactory repair – about the same as good parts and poor labour. The only truly marketable repair is good parts and good labour producing a satisfactory repair and for this to happen calls for parts, the parts vendor, the garage and the customer sharing in the repair and the communication that surrounds it.

From a parts suppliers perspective exposure to warranty claims has to be a key motivator – perhaps this is why most refrain from putting into writing their terms or entering into any form of service level agreement. Increasingly this will become an issue as the cost of major units continues to spiral and garages, lacking in expertise, continue to use diagnosis by component swapping rather than technical competence.

Now with ‘plant-state’ components, these units having picked up the on-board pin-code once fitted become useless for fitment to other vehicles – when returned in its original packaging, the parts supplier cannot identify this fundamental change has taken place until the next purchaser tries to install it – the dealers have covered this off with ‘no-returns policies’ – this is not them sticking-it to the independent sector but a need to protect the integrity of their stock – some of those units are many hundreds of pounds a pop.

It is proven, by the very existence of the franchised dealer, that customers, who understand the proposition, are willing to pay higher prices – and not just the odd pound here and there but frequently several times the price. Price sensitivity, again, is continuously used as an argument but this is based on uncorroborated data – the garage thinks… The franchised dealers however are eying the creamier parts of the independent market and without any form of cohesion – how many schemes have we seen come and go? The independent sector still remains ‘an alternative’ rather than ‘a viable, high quality alternative’.

Fit and forget

If only the independent garage could now refrain from ‘sipping-air’ when faced with warranty and making statements like ‘what idiot fitted this’ or other such disparaging comments our sector may begin to fight its way out of this price-trap.

You will never get away from the price argument and the world will continue to be a competitive place – as competitive as it is allowed to become. We have worked with garages to get them to negotiate the cost of fitting (only) and then allow the customer to make the materials (parts) choice – the greater percentage, when offered the alternatives, will choose the better quality materials almost without exception.

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- who has written 1163 posts on CAT Magazine.


One Response to “Don’t fit anything that can’t be polished”

  1. Neil says:

    Suppliers of sensitive electrical components now do supply parts in a sealed bag, with a sticker warning if the bag is opened that it cannot be returned for credit. Garages try and get around this by saying that it’s a faulty new part, even when it is a unit made by the OE supplier! I hate selling these parts to the public, or “Internet forum mechanics”.
    Regarding the point of looking after the customers pocket, the amount of times I hear a garage owner say “They won’t want a Pollen Filter” or “It doesn’t need a water pump, and they won’t wear it” (during a cambelt change) is staggering. I always ask “have you asked the customer?”. Nearly always, the answer is NO. Garages assume their customers needs these days and don’t get clarity from the onset. So much easy work and potential profit must be getting turned away because garages are too scared to tell their customers it’s part of the bloody job!!!

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